For about two years, I have been preaching once a month at Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural Annandale, Minnesota. We have been preaching through the first twelve verses of 1st Peter, Chapter 1. It’s taken us five sermons but that’s all right. Some of you are not surprised since I’m considered long winded anyway.
The first 12 verses remind us of who we are as Christians; in verse 13 of Chapter One, the message changes. To my unprofessional eye, Peter states seventeen things in these 12 verses about who we are in Christ. It’s an impressive list; it should make us dance.
In verse 13 it says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action.” Peter writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit calls us to action. What action? How about getting our head screwed on right before we go to war. How about true worship before action.
Matthew 16:21-27 says, "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.' Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.'”
In verse 22 Peter says, "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Peter wanted his plan not God’s. This suffering and being killed stuff was not part of Peter’s plan. Oh, how unprepared and stupid we, like Peter, can be! Today we want Christ and our plan doesn’t include suffering and being killed either. No, we like Peter want Christ but we don’t want the cross.
We want the easy faith. Lord, don’t call me to suffer yet in verses 24-27 Jesus tells us we must deny ourselves and take up our cross.
Today, in the American church, are we prepared for this taking up the cross and following Christ? We like all the “benefits” as it were, of being a Christian yet we shrink from the ensuing battle and the sacrifice it will take to follow Christ. Peter knows what’s going to happen to him. Read John 21:18-19: “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" Tradition has it; Peter died being crucified upside down.
We are not prepared to fight much less have the basic truths of the faith rooted deeply in our mind. Peter waited for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was to pray and watch—he fell asleep. We have fallen asleep; we haven’t prayed; we haven’t watched. We wanted Christ, but please no cross for me. Brother and sisters, persecution is coming and we are an unprepared army. See 1 Peter 1, we are not ready to fight. Oh Lord, please forgive our slumber, may we watch, pray and worship you. May we fully understand your plan. Fill us with your Spirit. Prepare us for battle, root truth deep in our hearts and minds. Do not leave us to ourselves. Come Holy Spirit, come. Amen.